About twenty Colombian students and researchers in Wageningen got together on campus on Wednesday 4 December in solidarity with the protests in their home country. ‘We want the Colombian government to protect the environment and biodiversity and to protect the lives of our social leaders.’
© Luuk Zegers
‘Today there is a big protest in Colombia’, says master’s student Animal Sciences Laura Arango Carmona (31). ‘As Colombians in Wageningen, we stand in solidarity with the protesters. We come together on campus, we play the national anthem on a violin, we bring banners, burn candles as a sign of grief and resistance, and we answer the questions of people who are wondering what’s going on.’
On November 21, protests broke out in Colombia. The dissatisfaction has many causes, including the failure of the government to fully implement the peace accord with the guerrilla’s. ‘It has to do with the dissident groups who didn’t stick to the peace agreement’, Arango Carmona explains. ‘Our government is determined to finish them all off. In August, they bombed a camp of one of these groups. Eighteen people died, eight of them children. This pissed many people off, also because it was kept silent until November. When the word got out, it was a big scandal. That’s when the protests started.’
But there are more reasons why Colombians are dissatisfied with their government, Arango Carmona says. ‘In just the one and a half year since this government is in charge, hundreds of Colombian social leaders have been murdered. People who fight for a better climate, traditional leaders, feminists, and so on. These people should be protected, no matter what their political views are, but our government is failing to do so.’
What the frack?
‘Also, Colombia has the most biodiversity per square meter in the world. We want our government to protect that, but right now, the deforestation rate is insane and in the search for oil and gas, fracking—a controversial drilling technique used to extract gas—is seen as a serious possibility. But fracking brings along serious environmental dangers and threatens our water supply.’
‘As students abroad, we are trying to bring progress to Colombia’, Arango Carmona says. ‘We feel like this government is moving Colombia backward instead of forward. We demand protection of all Colombian people and better laws to protect biodiversity and the environment.’